Indonesia — The Indonesias provincial Quick Reaction Fire Fighters Force work hard to try and extinguish hundreds of hot-spots burning peat land in Pelalawan district of Riau province on March 5, 2014.
The province of 5 million, a major palm oil growing region, was declared to be in a state of emergency at end of February due to the raging fires burning some 8000 hectares in the area.
The Indonesia haze coming from forest and peatland fires begun to disrupt flight schedules as well as forcing hundreds of schools to close. Although some schools decided to continue their operation, students are obliged to wear face mask while studying in their classrooms due to health risks posed by the haze.
The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo PurwoNugroho said, the haze problem is coming from illegal land clearing and the prolonged dry weather in most of Sumatra island. Riau Police chief Brigadier General Condro Kirono announced that they have arrested six people allegedly involved in the slash-and- burn activities as well as investigating the alleged involvement of several plantation companies causing the fires.
The Indonesia haze has caused health problem to more than 30,000 people due to excessive exposure to air pollution, which have reached to as high as 449 on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), considered as extremely unhealthy.
Most are suffering from respiratory infections including pneumonia, asthma and experienced eye and skin irritation.
The forestry ministry allocated Rp 1.5 trillion (US$124.5 million) to forest-fire management this year while some palm oil companies and local government disaster agency are reportedly help to put out fires by dispatching several water-bombing planes in several spots to battle the Indonesia haze.
Fears that haze from Sumatra island will eventually reach neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia are mounting, as in previous years they have suffered from the haze coming from Indonesia. (see: Haze returns to Malaysia)
The Singapore government has invited public feedback on a new proposed law, the Trans Boundary Haze Pollution Bill, which creates civil and criminal liability for actions, including action in other countries ones, which create, engage in, cause or create haze affecting Singapore. The Indonesia legislature also looks a step closer to ratifying the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze.